By JUDY SHERIDAN
Aledo veterinarian Dr. Glenn Rogers doesn’t have a beef with the traditional way cattle are raised and brought to market.
“U.S. agriculture and the U.S. beef industry furnish the safest, most wholesome food supply in the world,” he said. “It’s not a concern. It’s more of an effort to enter a niche market that’s growing.”
A sixth generation Texas rancher with acreage dating back to the 1890s, Rogers is adapting to a national natural foods trend by starting a new business.
He raises about 500 breeding heifers annually through his cow/calf operation on Holt River Ranch in Graford, but he began branching out in April, marketing beef directly to the consumer through a company he named Grassy Ridge Natural Beef.
“Natural is a non-definition as far as the USDA goes,” he said. “It means minimally processed at slaughter. It’s vague.”
For Rogers, however, natural is defined as meat from animals raised without growth hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products, cattle that ate mostly grass and never saw the inside of a feedlot — where additives are routinely used to improve feed efficiency.
“We try to be very transparent,” he said. “If we use antibiotics when an animal is sick — and I believe it would be inhumane not to — it’s noted, and that animal doesn’t go into the natural program.”
Varying from the norm is more costly, Rogers admitted, resulting in a higher-priced product.
“One $1 implant given to a calf can result in 20 pounds of extra weight at weaning,” he said. “That’s $40.”
Removing antibiotics from feed products can usher in more illness, another expense.
“Natural beef products are a luxury item,” he said. “Technology has allowed us to feed the world, but we want to use it as little as possible to achieve our goals.”